Keep the Chi in Xmas

For my first semester of college (Fall 1969), I went to the local community college; I earned the rest of my Bachelor’s degree at a Bible College (now a University). I was Baptist when I attended the community college, so as soon as I arrived I joined the Baptist Student Union. As the Christmas season approached, some of the members suggested we promote a ‘Put Christ back in Christmas’ campaign as an objection against the term ‘Xmas’.

After a bit of discussion, I spoke up: “Wait a minute guys; Christ is already in Xmas!”

I then explained the ancient use of the Greek letter ‘X’ (Chi) for ‘Christ’; there is nothing nefarious about it. Most of the earliest Christians spoke Greek, and Christ is spelled ‘Χριστός’. So in their writings they abbreviated words that began with ‘Christ’ as ‘X’ (‘Xian’ for example).

Some of the students were surprised, but they accepted my explanation and we did not do the project.

Keep chi in xmas

Other Abbreviations Related to Jesus

Every year around this time believers begin campaigning to put Christ back in Xmas with the idea that the ‘X’ in ‘Xmas’ crosses out Christ. But if we object the use of ‘X’ to represent ‘Christ’, should we also object to all the other abbreviations that do not spell out ‘Christ’ or ‘Jesus’? I don’t think anyone wants that.

Here are a number of such abbreviations.

Chi Rho

XP – Chi-Rho. Another ancient abbreviation used in the church is the Chi-Rho symbol for Christ, which comprises the first two letters of ‘Χριστός’ (Christos); the P is superimposed over the X to create a Christogram. The Chi element in the symbol also depicts the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and you can still see the Chi-Rho in Christian contexts today.


IHS (Iota, Eta, Sigma). Many churches also use the early symbol IHS which are capitals of the first three letters of Jesus in Greek (ΙΗΣΟΎΣ). It is found on communion wafers, altars, baptismal fonts, books, stained glass, and in other places.

alpha omega

– Alpha and Omega. Every one is familiar with the Alpha-Omega; the phrase is found in three places in the book of Revelation to represent Jesus as the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.


IXθYΣ. Who hasn’t ridden behind a car displaying this set of Greek letters in the outline of a fish? The word IXθYΣ (sounds like Ickthoos) is Greek for ‘Fish’–a symbol used very early by Christians as a code indicating that one is a Christian. The letters represent Jesus Christ, Son (of) God, Savior.


INRI (Latin). The earliest of all abbreviations representing Jesus is found in the Bible itself. When Jesus was crucified, Pilate ordered a placard to be nailed on the cross above his head bearing ‘INRI’, which in Latin stands for Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews.

What a loss for us if we no longer had these old symbols of Jesus; let’s not try to ban any of these legitimate abbreviations for our Lord—including Xmas.

So Merry Xmas to you! I hope you are having a happy holiday season.

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18 Responses to Keep the Chi in Xmas

  1. tonycutty says:

    Love it 🙂


  2. Very interesting. I do love the amount of symbols we have for Christ. I also think the best way to keep Christ is Christmas is to be Christ-like, focus on family and helping others. People who feel threatened that Christ can actually be removed from Xmas probably don’t know Christ very well at all. One cannot be all-powerful yet disposable no?


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Marisol, I like your thought: “The best way to keep Christ is Christmas is to be Christ-like, focus on family and helping others.” Jesus is all about peace, love, and reconciliation–not about cultural warfare.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Edie Taylor says:

    My mother used to disapprove using “Xmas” for the same reason. I wish I had known about the Greek meaning then! I think she got the idea from a radio evangelist (who for all we know was using it as a money-raising gimmick).Thank you for this explanation.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Yes, I think the opposition to Xmas is mostly due to simply misunderstanding it–plus having a sense that the secular ‘world’ is out to get us. Hopefully, a little education is helpful to those of genuine good will.


  4. Chas says:

    In the year or two before I came to believe in Jesus, it started to seem that Jesus was being kept out of Christmas. In my childhood, we went out carol singing and it seemed to me quite a special time of the year, particularly with our annual family gatherings, but, during the past two decades, Christmas has been made increasingly more commercial, and it has become more difficult to find Christmas cards that show the birth of Jesus. During the past few years, from about 50 cards that we usually receive, only about 4 or 5 show scenes representing the Biblical description of the birth of Jesus. However, maybe this shows that most people now put money before God and family.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      I agree that Christmas has become tremendously commercialized, but I don’t think it is an attack on Christmas–it is more like greed and opportunity. I think there are those who celebrate a commercial Christmas, some who celebrate a religious Christmas, and some who participate in both.

      And of course there are those who SELL! SELL! SELL!

      I think we can each choose how we approach Christmas.


  5. Excellent. I have a copy of FR Webber’s “Church Symbolism” and it’s a wonderful collection of ancient historical symbols and art motifs used in churches through history. As someone who loves art, I love weaving these symbols into my illustrations. The symbols you shared above all remind me of the rich symbolic language I learned in my Catholic upbringing. “INRI” in particular has particular significance to me – I think because of its link to the Resurrection narratives. I love this. As for me, I really don’t find my faith threatened if others choose to not celebrate Christmas!


  6. michaeleeast says:

    Most informative .
    Thank you.


  7. denis pucheu says:

    How bout the ristou, does that mean to restore the Chi. And I think you got the Chi Ro backwards. that’s Rx. Skull and crossbones. Many people killed and many books burned for this knowledge to be hidden.


    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Denis, I am not sure what you mean. What is the ristou? What has the Chi Ro to do with RX? And what hidden knowledge are you talking about?


  8. Pingback: Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year: Fun facts about Christmas that everyone needs to know! – Charis for Writing

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